OBAMA’S 100 DAYS OF ART
Americans for the Arts is patting the new president on the back for the commitment to the arts he has displayed in his first 100 days. The cultural advocacy group, which lobbied hard to save $50 million in arts funding in the recently passed economic recovery package, issued a press release from its president Robert L. Lynch, lauding the president’s progress so far, and encouraging him to "build on these initial budget requests to secure even higher funding levels to address the needs of the arts and arts education community."
According to Lynch, Obama’s current request for $161 million for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010 marks its largest budget in 15 years -- that is, since about the time when the NEA’s individual "Artist Grants" were defunded by Congress under Bill Clinton. Lynch also lauded the president’s request of $38.16 million to fund the department of education’s Arts in Education program, and his appointment of Harold & Kumar actor Kal Penn to serve as White House public liaison for arts and culture issues.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Penn’s character on the popular television hospital drama House was killed off (via suicide) to make time for the actor’s new job. The new job pays $70,000 a year, the newspaper says, compared to something like $50,000 per episode of House. He sounds perfect for the art world.
ART CUTS IN STATE BUDGETS: PENNSYLVANIA AND FLORIDA
At the same time that the federal government is (modestly) upping the funds for NEA, state arts budgets continue to suffer. The latest casualties of cuts on the state level are Florida and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania state senate proposed on May 6 to slash funding for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts from $15 million to zero in fiscal year 2010, with senate Republicans proposing the cuts as the alternative to "job-killing tax increases." Pennsylvania arts advocates are rallying against the cuts, pinning their hopes on the Democrat-controlled state House of Representatives. The GOP budget would also kill subsidies for the state’s Historical and Museum Commission.
Meanwhile, Florida finally has a budget for the coming year, which gives a small bit of relief to some 400 museums and cultural organizations across the state. Initially, arts support was set at zero for 2010, but some last-minute maneuvering saved a few bucks: To wit, the budget includes $2.5 million for cultural and museum grants, down from $6.9 million in the current year, and from $33.7 million as recently as 2006-07 -- marking a more than 90 percent plunge in funding in just two years. "It will have a huge effect on programs," Sherron Long of the Florida Cultural Alliance told a Tallahassee paper. "We'll see some organizations actually close."
LIBRARY TRADES WYETH, CURTIS FOR ROOF, HEATING
Wilmington Library in Wilmington, Del., has a plan to fix its leaky roof and antiquated heating system: Auction off artworks from its collection, including 14 illustrations by N.C. Wyeth, made for a 1920 edition of Robinson Crusoe, as well as a "rare, complete 20-volume set" of Edward S. Curtis' photographs of Native Americans. The items are being sold in fall auctions at Christie’s New York, according to Delaware Online.
Wyeth’s illustrations, which were sold to the library by the artist himself in 1922 for $2,300, could go for as much as $150,000-$600,000 each, while the price range for the Curtis portfolio is estimated at $700,000-$900,000 (the record for a Curtis portfolio is $1,416,000, set at Christie’s New York in 2005). The sale of the artworks was unanimously approved by the library’s board, and went to Christie’s after the nearby Brandywine River Museum and Winterthur Museum and Country Estate both passed on buying the works (the Library didn’t even approach the Delaware Art Museum, which is struggling to pay for a $35 million expansion).
Wilmington Library reports increased public attendance in the last few months, as the recession has led people to make more use of public facilities. At the same time, it has been spending money directly out of its endowment "to make ends meet." It hopes to split proceeds from the sale, with 60 percent going to replenish the endowment, and the rest going to renovations.
COFFEE $2.25 AT SOTHEBY’S HONG KONG
Times are hard in auction land -- everyone knows by now that Standard & Poor’s has cut Sotheby’s bonds to "junk" status amid falling auction revenues. But to see the real fallout from the slowing auction market, look East to Hong Kong, where Art Radar Asia reports that "tongues have been wagging about prices at Sotheby’s. . . the prices of the coffee not the art." It seems that a cup of Joe, once free to guests, was HK$20 at the recent sales (don’t worry: that’s just $2.25). The move was billed as an attempt to raise money for the victims of last year’s Sichuan earthquake.
In other bits of seemingly gratuitous parsimony, the blog reports that a lecture program was completely cut, "chairs, tables and sofas are gone" from the bar area, the once-free catalogue is HK$40 ($4.50). Somewhat unbelievably, it also claims that Sotheby’s Asia CEO Kevin Ching was actually manning the phones at the recent auction.
ART POETRY AMONG THE GRAVESTONES
"Pax Americana," a poetry reading organized by Stefan Bondell, takes place on May 9, 2009, at the "secret" Marble Cemetery at 41 1/2 Second Avenue on the Lower East Side. The gates will open at noon, and the reading will begin at five. Readers include Rene Ricard, Terence Koh, Bernadette Mayer, Jeff Wright, Stefan Bondell and Artnet Magazine cotnributor Ilka Scobie, along with a dozen other poets. Poets are to read in front of Bondell's 20 x 20 ft. epic painting, Pax Americana, which includes dirt gathered from George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex.
PUBLIC ART AT ART 40 BASEL
The big art fair in the Swiss town on the Rhine, Art 40 Basel, June 10-14, 2009, is presenting an array of public works on the plaza in front of the fair halls. Swiss artist Valentin Carron's Fosbury Flop is an immense wooden cross, while General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal) are presenting the six-foot-tall AIDS Sculpture from 1989, their signature variation on Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture. Mark Handforth's work consists of massive, intertwined pieces of chain, while Danish artist Jeppe Hein's Loop Bench (2006) takes a common park bench to outlandish, maze-like dimensions. Other artists are Gabriel Kuri, Mathieu Mercier, John McCracken and Ken Price.
JOAN ALLEN AS GEORGIA O'KEEFFE
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is bringing its act to New York City. On May 18, 2009, the museum presents "O'Keeffe, Speaking with Friends and Lovers: A Reading of O'Keeffe's Letters" at Christie's New York. Actress Joan Allen provides the voice of O'Keeffe, while Sam Waterson reads Alfred Stieglitz and Marsha Mason is the narrator and the voice of Anita Pollitzer. The event is a fundraiser, with tickets beginning at $250. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"ART OF THE NORTHEAST" AT SILVERMINE GUILD
The 60th annual "Art of the Northeast" exhibition opens at Silvermine Guild Arts Center in New Canaan, Conn., May 7-June 5, 2009. Juror for the show, which drew 925 entries by 434 artists from New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- just 51 were selected for the exhibition -- was Douglas Dreishpoon, chief curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Several artists received special awards: Alex McFarlane (best in show); Edith Borax-Morrison (second place trustees award); Michele Kraus (third place); Joseph Fucigna (the Mollie & Albert Jacobson award in sculpture); Mark Stephenson (the Carole Eisner award for sculpture); Karin Hillmer (the Stephen Madwed memorial prize for photography); Merrill Steiger (the Diane Alexander memorial award); Karen Schiff and Paul Harvey (honorable mentions). For more info, see www.silvermineart.org
AND/OR SHUTS, HEADS TO BROOKLYN
After three-and-a-half years, Dallas’ avant-garde And/Or Gallery is closing its doors. Director Paul Slocum, a new media artist known extremely cool digital collages (see his work at http://qotile.net/), told a local blog that he was "just worn out from fighting the fight to make things happen here in Dallas," that he would continue an online And/Or Video Editions project, and move to Brooklyn, where he hoped to start a variation of And/Or with a "veteran gallery-owner." Watch www.andorgallery.com for more info about the Dallas space’s upcoming final exhibition, described ambiguously as "a conceptual show that will reveal everything about how the gallery was operated."